The 10 greatest Hitman levels

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The 10 greatest Hitman levels

Hitman 3 is nearly upon us, wrapping up the critically acclaimed World of Assassination trilogy and with it comes great expectation. The Hitman series has been defined by ingenious level design that encourages a multi-faceted player approach. These large sandboxes, filled with dozens (sometimes hundreds) of individual moving parts, challenged players to strategise and execute plans with precision timing.

Agent 47 has travelled the world, he has walked through the darkest pits of the underworld and the global elite's glitziest heights. There is a wealth of great levels throughout this singular action/puzzle franchise, and today we are going to look at the 10 best.

You will notice that Hitman: Codename 47 is not represented at all in this list. That is because the original Hitman game simply is not very good. It did not know what game it wanted to be, it feels like an outlier, not a true part of the series it would become. And I just flat out refused to replay it for this list, honestly. Life is short, you never know when a balding clone assassin will drop a piano on your head.

With that in mind, here is our list of the 10 best Hitman levels.

10- Traditions of the Trade
(Hitman: Contracts)

This was originally a level in Hitman: Codename 47, but it was remade (along with several others) in the third instalment, Hitman: Contracts, which offered the series a second chance to pull off some intriguing levels from the flawed original. The best of which was Traditions of the Trade, which is set inside a hotel.

It improved on the original in many ways. It changed the backdrop from sunny daytime to dreary night, it improved the hotel security, elevating the level's dangers to better suit the new series standard.

While the kill methods were very similar, the key difference was in the setup. Planning and approach are the backbones of a good Hitman game, and in Contracts, you needed to spend more time strategising your approach to the separate targets. In the original version, you could basically walk to each target with minimal fuss, it lacks the timing and finesse that makes the future Hitman games so engaging. A good remake should always know what worked and what didn't work the first time around and Traditions of the Trade definitely did that.

9- The Finish Line
(Hitman 2)

After a simple, small scale prologue level Hitman 2 is off to the races. Literally. This level is set during a NASCAR style event hosted in a major tech company's shadow. Your job is to kill the tech heiress who has a penchant for high-speed thrills, as well as her father, who is showcasing his latest piece of military hardware. The Finish Line is a great example of how far Hitman has come as a series for level density. This location is packed with NPCs, both benign and dangerous, everywhere you look. It demands a lot of careful movement and good timing, so you don't risk getting caught.

The new Hitman trilogy came with a feature that guided players through potential kill paths, taking a lot of the guesswork out of the experience without robbing it of that sense of accomplishment. The Finish Line has a lot of great variety in the potential paths offered to you. This is easily the most entertaining and thoughtfully designed mission in Hitman 2, a game filled with great missions.

You can also dress like a flamingo mascot and who doesn't want to see the stone-faced Agent 47 do that? It's objectively funny.

8- A New Life
(Hitman: Blood Money)

While most of the best Hitman levels are sprawling locations with a broad range of access points, A New Life whittles everything down to a relatively tiny sandbox; an unassuming suburban street. Your target is in a house, under the watchful eye of witness protection agents and you only have a handful of access points. This should be an issue for a Hitman level, but A New Life excels because of it. You have very few places to hide should things go wrong, and there are enough armed agents present to make life very difficult for you. Rather than strangling the life out of the game, it feels like a noose snugly resting around your neck, leaving you constantly on edge.

And the limited space does not impede the creativity you can employ to complete your objectives. There are a surprising number of options open to you for getting into the house, there is even an option to lure your target to a window and take them out with a sniper rifle from a neighbour's house.

7- The Murder Of Crows
(Hitman: Blood Money)

Hitman levels generally operate like a finely tuned timepiece, a lot of individual parts moving as one, cycling through constantly so when you miss an opening you either need to try something else or bide your time before you can strike again. In Blood Money's The Murder of Crows, that timepiece becomes a ticking time bomb.

Set within a rowdy New Orleans parade, there is a group of assassins somewhere in the city preparing to assassinate a US politician who is riding around the streets on a float, and Agent 47 needs to take them out before they can hit their target. This ramps up the tension tenfold, with the chilling sound of the assassin's whistle echoing through the streets as he prepares for his attack acting as a constant reminder that you are in a race against time. It is far from the most challenging level in terms of logistics, it is actually one of the easiest missions in Blood Money in terms of planning, but the challenge comes from making sure your timing is precise. You cannot afford to delay, you cannot risk being late or spending too much time with your setup. You can even set the wheels in motion faster by completing certain It remains one of the most uniquely structured Hitman levels ever.

6- Anathema
(Hitman 2: Silent Assassin)

This is very much the prototype for a good Hitman level and stands as one of the absolute best first levels in any game that I have played. While Hitman: Codename 47 left me disinterested in the prospect of a Hitman franchise, Anathema immediately presented me with the game that I wanted the original to be. A multi-layered location with strong security and a range of viable approaches, this is one of the levels that has lingered in my mind ever since release, despite the fact I have not played Silent Assassin in 15 years. Everything Hitman should be, everything the series has gradually refined over the last 21 years, Anathema established. As a statement of intent, Anathema has a lasting impact on the Hitman series and remains a high point to this day.

5- Situs Inversus

The finale to Hitman's unconventional episodic relaunch is not only a great Hitman mission but the best final level in the series to date. Set in a high-tech elite private hospital in the mountains of Hokkaido, Japan, the odds are stacked against you here. There are many layers to this site, and access to each is limited. The key cards are basically woven into the clothes these people wear so you will need to act fast, be ready for many costume changes, and be constantly on edge as you move deeper into the facility. It is a brilliantly designed sandbox. The extra challenge of exclusive access to key areas demands you explore and try to find suitable targets for a wardrobe swap. The variety of ways to complete your objectives are all entertaining and very different in approach.

The level was also well utilised in the Patient Zero bonus campaign, which saw you infiltrating different parts of the facility to stop a deadly virus being released. This showcased the Hokkaido map's versatility, but the original mission is still the best for offering a more structured, complex series of objectives.

4- The Showstopper

The Showstopper was a hugely important mission in the Hitman series. The first episode in the new episodic Hitman was the first mission to follow the woefully misjudged and off-target Hitman: Absolution (I would have called it Hitman: Abomination, myself). It needed to impress if Hitman was going to last as a viable franchise. Fans were not happy with Absolution ditching the 'sandbox murder-puzzle' formula of the series favouring more linear, stealth-based, story-driven levels. Aside from the passable Chinatown level, Absolution was not a Hitman game, and anything less than a full return to form could have been disastrous for the series.

Thankfully, The Showstopper launched the new Hitman series with an all-time classic.

While a lavish party and fashion show occur on the ground floor, an insidious arms deal is taking place upstairs. You have two targets to pick off in separate sections of the building, and your options for taking them down are nice and varied. With the 2016 relaunch being episodic in nature, the levels needed to present you with good replay value since you would be replaying these levels a lot while waiting for the next instalment. The Showstopper got things off to a great start, with a wide variety of completely unique kill styles at your disposal, and the expanded rating system (initially introduced in a bare-bones form in Blood Money) would encourage more and more elaborate assassination attempts.

The one smart feature that Hitman: Absolution introduced was Instinct Mode, a way of scanning your surroundings and determine NPC locations without jumping into the map. This large, complex sandbox ensured you got well acquainted with Instinct Mode. As a level that helped reestablish Hitman as an essential gaming franchise, while acclimating players to all the shiny new/revised features, The Showstopper was a perfect first mission.

3- A House Of Cards
(Hitman: Blood Money)

Traditions of the Trade presented us with the concept of a Hitman mission in a hotel but, as was often the case with this franchise, Hitman: Blood Money perfected it. A House of Cards is set within a huge casino/hotel in Las Vegas. You have to hit three targets in different parts of this vast complex, and the game presents you with a wealth of options for access. You can walk the casino floor, you can slip into the inner bowels of the building, you can explore multiple floors of the hotel, walk through different rooms and see if their balconies give you a good vantage point.

Blood Money was a game filled with great level design, big and small, and A House of Cards is the best example of a big map being well designed to use every element in your strategy. Every square inch of this map is there for a reason.

Hitman would return the franchise to a hotel's confines with Club 27, which was a great level in its own right, but nothing can touch A House of Cards.

2- Curtains Down
(Hitman: Blood Money)

For the longest time, Curtains Down was the best Hitman mission of all time. A standout level in a game filled with back to back incredible missions, Curtains Down is the polar opposite of A House of Cards (#3) in that it is a comparatively condensed and intimate setting.

Set in an opera house currently under renovation, playing host to a dress rehearsal for their next show, it's your job to kill one of the show's stars and a politician who is in attendance to watch the performance. Curtains Down offers a relatively limited amount of locations within the level but plenty of options for assassination.

This level has some of the most creative solutions to any Hitman game; ranging from clever accidents to point-blank murder. All require a lot of thought and precision timing. One solution involves creating an accidental death on stage by replacing the prop gun with a live gun, meaning you can be far away from the crime when it happens. Or maybe you want to challenge yourself? You can position yourself in the rafter and time a sniper round at the exact moment the prop gun goes off.

Curtains Down is the Hitman level I have played the most, and it still presents a healthy challenge to me, even when I know its every secret like the back of my hand. It's simply one of the absolute best levels I have ever played in any game.

1- The World of Tomorrow

Curtains Down used to be the reigning champion of Hitman levels until the Hitman 2016 relaunch gave us The World of Tomorrow. Following a level as brilliant and important as The Showstopper (#4) is a tall order and yet this one blew it out of the water in every conceivable way. The Showstopper was IO Interactive proving they still had it, The World of Tomorrow is them proving we hadn't seen everything from them.

Set in the idyllic, sunkissed streets of Sapienza, Italy, The World of Tomorrow is one of those vast and varied sandboxes that Hitman excels at; you have the cobbled streets and side alleys of the town, the beautiful dock area, a grand-looking old church overlooking, a large mansion at the heart of town and an underground facility.

You have several targets and an objective to find and destroy a dangerous viral weapon, and The World of Tomorrow allows you to make use of the entire map to accomplish this. You could finish the entire thing confined to just the mansion and bunker, or you could branch out and arrange some untimely ends in the town, or the church. There's even a dilapidated lighthouse behind the mansion that can come in handy.

Every good Hitman mission is a perfect marriage of world design and mission structure; every corner of the world should accommodate the mission. The World of Tomorrow perfected that balance, there is not a wasted moment to be found. There is so much variety on offer in terms of both aesthetic and strategy in this level, and it stands as IO Interactive's magnum opus.

Could Hitman 3 topple this? Only time will tell.

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